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The poet talks about the unique challenges of being a Jewish poet.

A Jewish Poet

A Jewish Poet

Poetry of Yehoshua November

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A Jewish Poet

It is hard to be a Jewish poet.
You cannot say things about G‑d
that will offend the disbelievers.
And you always have to remind someone
it wasn’t your people who killed their savior.
And Solomon and David are always laughing
over your shoulder
like a father and son ridiculing the unfavored brother.
And you cannot entice people with the sloping
parts of a woman’s body
because you must always remain pure.
And every day you have to ask yourself why you’re writing
when there is already the one great book.
It is hard to be a Jewish poet.
You cannot say anything about the disbelievers,
which might offend G‑d.

From the book G‑d’s Optimism by Yehoshua November

Yehoshua November is the author of two books of poetry, G-d’s Optimism, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, and Two Worlds Exist, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Sun Magazine, and on National Public Radio. November teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College.
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Discussion (10)
September 25, 2016
Thought provoking, meaningful and beautiful!
Keep writing. Looking forward to reading your next book, "Two Worlds Exist."
Anonymous
NY
chabadofbinghamton.com
April 1, 2014
In the very best sense...all the sacred writers of the Jewish Tradition as a whole, and in part... are poets! From Torah through the entire Tanak. And perhaps in a grander sense... Judaism is itself also the very poetic expression of Hashem. Devarim...are the tools of the poets. G-d has given us language to be poets...to spread and keep the Sefer Chaim...our Torah...and to use His sacred poetry for Tikkun Olam. Thanks for all your fine videos.
John Ross, Jr.
Chicago
September 9, 2012
Beautiful work!
I love your poem! Thanks!
Yoni
Brooklyn, New York
September 27, 2011
gratitude
for the record, i am queer and reform and i love this book! thank you, poet. for writing and reading.
ayal ben gita
san francisco, ca
July 15, 2011
@Fran abt Solomon & David
I'm no expert, Fran, but just to maybe suggest what i see that phrase to mean I'll submit my opinion. :)
David & Solomon are the ultimate poets, whose poetry was included in the Greatest of Books by the inspiration of G-d. How can we, such imperfect poets dare to call our art by even the same name? But I picture David & Solomon looking over our shoulder like indulgent Grandfathers chuckling over the attempts of children.
Jean O
BATTLE GROUND, WA
chabadclarkcounty.com
July 10, 2011
Solomon and David laughing over your shoulder
I'm not sure I completely understand that line. Why precisely are Solomon and David laughing over your shoulder?

Anybody?

thanks
fay
brooklyn, ny
July 9, 2011
Jewish Poet
Keep on writing of the worthy challenges! :)
Julia Blair Realpe
Danbury, CT
putnamchabad.org
July 5, 2011
Yehoshua November
I just got his book last week and am slowly reading the poems because they are so layered.
elliot
allentown, NJ
July 4, 2011
I love this poem!
Every statement in it is true. The poem is like a coin, you look at the aspects of the one side, then at the very end you flip it over and look at the other side.
The poem provokes much thought. How can we ever compare ourselves to anything expressed in the One Great Book? But it reminded me of an incident I witnessed of a mother who had many children, so many that the income of the children's father was barely enough. so her friends thought she would be relieved to have one less mouth. But the agonizing mother only cried. None of the other children will sing her song, they have their own, they can't hug me with her arms, or smile at me with her smile. Her favorite color, her own doll, or her place at the table. Some may be better at things, some worse but no one can take her place. This is what I see in Psalm 139.
Your poem has blessed me because it has reminded me I may not be wonderful in Man's eyes, but I'm loved by my G-d for who I am.
Thank You!
Jean O
BATTLE GROUND, WA
chabadclarkcounty.com
June 27, 2011
The Jewish Poet Poem
I liked your poem very much. The ending was terrific. So glad I happened on this site and found your work! Sincerely, Abigail
Abigail Stone
Brooklyn, NY
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